Summary: We get in shape for God as we learn to serve and be a servant to others.
Before us this morning are three items: a watch, a billfold, and a Bible. The watch represents the time given to us each day. The billfold represents the financial resources that we earn or are given to us. The Bible represents the faith that we proclaim.
Now, keeping in mind the meanings of these items I ask, “Which of these three is the best way to serve others?
How many of you say the watch? How many of you say the billfold? How many of you say the Bible? How many of you say all three?
I would suggest this morning that all three is the best way to serve others. To serve others takes time. To serve others takes financial resources. To serve others is an expression of our faith.
Todd Wendorff tells the story of walking into a bathroom at his church and noticing a man in a wheelchair at the sink, with his shirt off and his toothpaste tube open. Todd said, “He was attempting to wash up and I concluded that he was homeless. Fear struck me, “God are you going to ask me to help him?”
“I didn’t know if I could do anything for him. I wrestled with God and finally washed up next to the man and left.”
He concluded, “As I walked out I felt a stab of guilt. I should have asked him if he needed help. This lonely man, I thought, probably doesn’t have a friend in the world.”
Can you relate to Todd? I can. You can.
We continue this morning with our series, “Getting In Shape for God.” Last week we looked at Ephesians 2:10 “For we are God’s masterpiece,” wrote Paul. “He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so that we can do the good things he planned for us long ago.” And we were told that getting in shape for God requires us to believe, accept, and live out the truth of this verse.
This morning we are going to learn another way that we get in shape for God. We get in shape for God as we learn to serve and be a servant to others.
In the book of James, chapter 2 and verses 14 though 18 we read, “Dear brothers and sisters, what’s the use of saying you have faith if you don’t prove it by your actions? That kind of faith can’t save anyone. Suppose you see a brother or sister who needs food or clothing, and you say, “Well good-bye and God bless you; stay warm and eat well.” but then you don’t give that person any food or clothing. What good does that do?
So you see, it isn’t enough just to have faith. Faith that doesn’t show itself by good deeds is no faith at all-it is dead and useless. Now some people may argue, “Some people have faith; others have good deeds.” I say, “I can’t see your faith if you don’t have good deeds, but I will show you my faith through my good deeds.”
Getting in shape and staying in shape for God means that we serve others - in Jesus’ name. But, this passage of scripture also challenges us with regard to service.
One reason for this challenge is because our American heritage has shaped our thinking about serving others in a couple of ways. First, we often see serving others as enabling them to stay dependent and not become responsible.
We have been taught to be self-reliant and responsible persons. We have been taught not be lazy. So our upbringing often creates a barrier to caring for others because we often see those in need as weak or lazy and if we help them in some way, then we are enabling them to continue to be irresponsible.
Another part of this challenge comes as we honestly wrestle with living out our faith by doing good works as an expression of it and yet fearing that we are going to be trapped into a commitment that we cannot get out of and find that our time and money is being expended far beyond what we had anticipated. While at the same time we don’t want to be hard or mean! (Help!)
The Bible has some important things to say about responsibility. Read through the books of Leviticus and Deuteronomy. They are filled with lists of responsibilities that God expected from the Israelites as part of the covenant. The Ten Commandments are a clear example of being responsible to God and one another. But the New Testament has some important things to say as well.
In 2 Thessalonians 3:6 – 13, Paul says this about responsibility: “And now, dear brothers and sisters, we give you this command with the authority of our Lord Jesus Christ: Stay away from any Christian who lives in idleness and doesn’t follow the tradition of hard work we gave you. For you know that you ought to follow our example. We were never lazy when we were with you. We never accepted food from anyone without paying for it. We worked hard day and night so that we would not be a burden to any of you. It wasn’t that we didn’t have the right to ask you to feed us, but we wanted to give you an example to follow. Even while we were with you, we gave you this rule: “Whoever does not work should not eat.”